Editor’s Note: At Life & Thyme, we’re fortunate to connect with a vast array of talented individuals from across the globe, many of whom share their work with us through our social media hashtag, #lifeandthyme. By way of these digital channels, they inspire us through their own creative narratives––and we’re pleased to share those specialities here in our new series, Life & Thyme Community Spotlight.
Today, we check in with Beata Lubas, food photographer and stylist, where she serves up a little of her personal story, along with a side of pie.
What were some turning points that led you to food photography?
I never really knew what I wanted to do in my life. I tried several things, but there was always something missing. So when I was 20, I left my job and moved to England. Just like that. I packed my suitcase, bought a one-way ticket and set off to explore another corner of the world. I was hungry to see unfamiliar places, to learn another language, to get to know new people and other cultures. Me and my husband began to travel a little bit more at that time; I wanted to capture those memories but I felt that the pictures I took with my phone didn’t reflect the moments and places in the way I saw and remembered them. It was then I decided to buy a camera and begin my journey with photography.
I’d always been very passionate about food, so to practice photography, I simply started taking pictures of what I cooked and baked––and I got hooked!
What do you seek from your work?
Every day I strive to be a better photographer, I crave learning new things, and to push the boundaries of my comfort zone in order to become a better version of myself. Photography has been an emotional journey that has enriched my life and changed the way I see the world. It moves me and scares me at the same time, but it also gives me freedom and makes me feel alive.
I want to create images that evoke emotions in people––that inspire, and make everyone hungry too! That’s when I feel fulfilled as a photographer.
Walk us through the process of one of your most recent shoots.
I find that every project is different. Sometimes I have a strong vision of the image that I want to create in my head, other times I try different things to see what works and what doesn’t. When I create a photograph, I always think of it as a blank canvas. I have my main subject in mind, I choose the background and “paint’’ it with the layers of different props and garnishes. When I was making a shot of the Polish Jabłecznik for Life & Thyme, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve. This recipe brings back special memories of my family home and I wanted to give this image that nostalgic feeling, so I chose calm, neutral colours, plain plates and added some vintage props like old cutlery and black and white pictures from my family album. At the same time, I wanted the food to look inviting and so I placed the tea cups in the scene and scattered some crumbs around to tell the story.
How do you tell a story within a photo through food styling and light?
I think to be a great storyteller, you need to be a very good observer first. I love to watch the light and see how it changes throughout the day and how it is affected by the weather and by the passing seasons. I often manipulate the color and intensity of light by diffusing it, reflecting it or changing camera settings to achieve a certain look, for example, when I want to create a bright morning scene during a grey afternoon. I love to play with colors and textures a lot to enhance the mood and reflect different times of the year in my images. I also find that choosing props with character bring something interesting and unique into food photography, and help to tell a better story.
Who do you admire?
That’s a great question! The truth is that I fall in love with someone new every day! Seriously. People are just amazing! Every single day I discover artists that make my heart beat faster, I hear or read the words of authors that inspire and motivate me, I meet someone who I can learn from. I really think that everyone has something special to offer, something to admire––whether it’s someone well known, a family member, a friend or a total stranger.
What are 3 of your favorite food and/or coffee establishments in your neighborhood?
One of my favorite places in the neighborhood is an oldie worldie pub, called Tame Otter. It’s such a charming place and the food is excellent! I often visit York’s Bakery Café for a tasty brunch and a nice tea, and I would highly recommend Belfry Hotel, which serves amazing Sunday carvery!
By Beata Lubas
I find Poland easy to love. Its flavors, scents, sounds and colors fill every corner of my childhood memories. Its breathtaking views melt my heart, and the food always makes me feel like home.
When I think of Poland, where I come from, I think of apples. I think of a lush apple orchard in my Nan’s village; as kids we would climb the trees to pick the juiciest fruits blushing in the sunshine. I think of an old and generous apple tree in my parents’ garden, its branches bowing with the weight of the fruits, the taste of which I’ll never forget. I think of a Polish market on a sunny summer morning, brimming with different varieties of apples from all over the country. I also can’t help but think of the smell of mum’s freshly baked apple pie and the fights I’d have with my brothers over the final piece of this Jabłecznik.
Today, living 1,639.7 kilometers from my family, I bake that same pie whenever I feel homesick. It brings back those sweet memories and makes me feel at home. I eat it cold or slightly warmed, sprinkled with a coat of icing sugar and sometimes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And always paired with lemon tea––just like my mum would serve it.
For the pastry:
- 250 grams plain flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 100 grams butter, cold
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tablespoon natural yogurt
For the filling:
- 750 grams apples (weighed after peeling and removing cores)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground almonds
Additionally: icing sugar for serving
Sift together the flour with baking powder into a medium bowl.
Cut butter into small cubes and add to the flour along with sugar, eggs, yogurt and vanilla seeds scraped from the pod.
Work the mixture with your hands until all ingredients bind together. If the pastry feels too wet, add more flour; if it is too dry, add a bit more yogurt.
Divide the pastry into two parts, one larger (around 2/3 of the pastry; this will be used to line the bottom and sides of the baking tin) and one smaller (around 1/3 of the pastry, which will be placed on the top). Wrap them separately in a cling wrap and put in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
In the meantime, peel the apples, cut them in quarters and remove the cores. Grate apples using a medium grating blade. Press a handful of grated apples between your hands to release the juice and put it in a different bowl.
Repeat this process with the rest of the apples. You won’t need the juice in this recipe, so pour yourself a glass, as this freshly squeezed apple juice tastes amazing!
Add sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds to the apples and mix together.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry (the larger of the two first) and use this piece to line the bottom and 2/3 of the way up the sides of a 20 centimeter/8 inch round cake tin.
Prick the pastry with a fork. Place grated apples on the top of the pastry and lightly press them with a spoon. Roll out the smaller part and lay it over the top. Press the edges together and prick the top layer with fork, as well.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cover it with aluminum foil or baking paper if it starts to get too brown.
Allow to cool before serving, and enjoy!